Choose Your Own ADDventure with Protagonize
Protagonize is a collaborative fiction-writing community that allows writers to author stories separately or together, build new branches off of other writer’s stories, and rate each other’s work. The twist is, the stories are interactive, like the Choose Your Own Adventure Stories of yore. The folks at Protagonize call them “addventure” stories, with each author adding new branches (or linking back to previous ones).
Here’s how it works — you start reading a story, choosing options to move the story forward, and working your way though other people’s contributions until you reach a part that hasn’t been written or hasn’t been provided with options to move the story forward, what they call a “fragment”. Then, you start writing. Your segment will become one branch of the story’s structure, and others can rate it. Once it’s written, you only have 60 minutes to make changes before it’s locked for good (so that others aren’t caught out using elements in their new branches that you’ve deleted from the branch they’re building on).
Protagonize seems to have built up a fun, active community of writers — there are hundreds of stories and authors working on them. While it probably isn’t the place to write your next best-seller, if you’re looking for a fun way to connect with other authors, Protagonize might be just the thing.
Sounds like a great idea. Ingriguing, even.
As an author with a day job, though, the *last* thing I want to do is spend time producing fiction that won’t be paid for, and provides nothing but (perhaps) a little fun. I’m assuming the fine print assigns all copyright to the site owners, too.
If there were huge amounts of reader traffic (in the millions, please) that would provide some exposure to potential readers of my real work, then I’d maybe consider it. But I’m getting a bit tired of being asked to produce freebies for exposure, too.
Writers are amongst the most poorly-paid professionals in the world, and this sort of thing is part of the reason why. We keep giving it away, which undervalues what we do with those who would otherwise pay us.
I love all your blogs, Dustin, especially this one, and appreciate the updates, but for now I’ll be passing on ADDventure, thanks. I’ll leave it for the dilettantes.
Tracy: I can certainly see that, and I agree — writers should get paid. I’ve discouraged people from posting to sites like Helium.com for that very reason.
Now, I don’t write fiction (yet?) so it’s unlikely I’d submit anything to Protagonize in any case. That said, it seems like a fun idea, which is why I wrote about it. Here’s who I can see using it: younger writers (maybe *future* writers?) who want to build their chops, learn by doing, and socialize with other writers. That’s not to say more experienced writers might not get much out of it — sometimes I get an urge to collaborate with someone just for the sake of collaborating (probably a suppressed cry for human contact — writing can be lonely work!) and I can see a site like Protagonize being a pretty good outlet for that.
I didn’t look at the copyright terms, but you’re right — that could be an issue. I’m not sure if people are really going to find some other use for their disjointed fragments of stories, but still — writers’ copyrights jave some value, and sites like Protagonize tend to keep all the value generated. Again, I can’t see this being used to professional development, but rather as a fun outlet and social network, but if you see a way to capitalize on your work there, you’d better pay close attention to the terms fo service.
I don’t want to discount it altogether — there’s been stranger things that have taken off like rockets on-line (Twitter, for instance). You never know what’s going to tickle people’s funny-bones, and this has potential.
Even with huge traffic, though, I’d still be reluctant to partake. This really seems like more of a fan-fic style site than one where professional writers would gain any advantage — including collegial company.
I find plenty of company via like-minded bloggers and forums, and the good old email discussion groups.
Hey Dustin –
Thanks for mentioning Protagonize. I just wanted to clear up a couple of misconceptions that might be taken from your post real quick, though.
(1) Protagonize supports both traditional linear (serial/chapter-based) stories, as well as addventures. (We didn’t coin the term, BTW – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addventure should give you some background.)
(2) The editing window on new posts is 24 hours now, not 60 minutes, as long as no one’s posted a follow-up chapter or branch to what you’ve written.
(3) All content on the site is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. More info is available here: http://blog.protagonize.com/2008/05/30/who-owns-your-content/
From a user perspective, we have wide variety of budding and professional authors using the site to do trial runs of fiction, discuss technique and style, get feedback / criticism on story ideas, etc. There’s a pretty vibrant community building around the site and it been picking up steam nicely. We’re also introducing a new feature in July that should allow for micro-communities to work within the confines of their own areas on the site, create discussions, and generally refine their craft.
If you have any comments, feedback, or suggestions, feel free to drop by the Protagonize blog at http://blog.protagonize.com and let us know. 🙂
-nick / protagonize
Nick: Thanks for popping in. The community features are what I found interesting about Protagonize — I can frankly take or leave the choose your own adventure stuff. I hadn’t realized that you were encouraging “traditional” linear storytelling, too.
And, of course, the Creative Content licensing should ease some concerns.